How to take the Publishing Plunge

 

This is quite fun really.

Pretend you don’t want it. Pretend it’s not your life’s ambition and that your existence will not come crashing down around your skinny ankles if you fail.

Stop rereading your first three chapters. They’re not getting any better. You can’t actually see the words that are on the page anymore. So just stop. They’re fine. Will you be rejected because of a typo? Maybe. Would you want an agent who rejected you because of one anyway? Don’t say yes. The answer is no. Because, let’s face it, spell-check and eagle-eyes be damned, your manuscript is riddled with them.

Pick people who don’t want you. Get a taste for the ole form rejection. Build up a resistance. Send it to agents who specifically say they don’t want what you’re writing. If they have a dragon with a line through it, they are perfect. Send it to publishers who take commercial women’s fiction. If they publish books with watercolour covers and shiny titles that look like enlarged versions of pretty handwriting, they are beyond perfect.

Write your synopsis. You’ve already researched. You’ve even written a few. Practice is good. Now stop looking for the key to your perfect summary. No one offering advice has or will read your book. They can’t tell you how to condense it. Just do it. Cut out all but the most important stuff and get it done. Ruin the story. Give away the ending. Man up. If you think they expect you to pull them through all the twists and turns and ups and downs of your story in one page…well maybe they do, but I can’t. So there.

Write the shortest cover letter ever. And state the obvious as little as possible. You’ve written a book you say? No shit. You’ve included the first three chapters? Go figure. You’d be happy to send them the whole whopping thing? Get out! Seriously, nothing in my life is relevant. So I shan’t waste their time.

Remember, they don’t want your book anyway. It’s not THAT pivotal.

You won’t send a less-than-ready submission. It’s not in you to send out something that’s shoddy and is all but tea-stained and curling up at the corners. It will be polite, grammatically sound, and to the point. It will be the first step.

And it’s happening TOMORROW. Eek!

Tomorrow is good. I like Tuesdays.

 

In case anyone is wondering, and I know they’re not, the daily blog commitment was suspended for the holidays. Don’t fret; writing and editing continued, naturally. But I didn’t want to rise out of my little fairy-light-filled bubble and speak to the world.

 

 

 

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Authority

Everybody wants to be in control. Not evil-moustache-stroking control-the world, but over themselves; their time, happiness, success,  thoughts, bodies, their everything.

Instead of taking control and wielding it, it’s relinquished. It’s given away.

Time is surrendered with a martyr’s sigh to the million things you have to do.

Happiness slips into the hands of another.

Success is sealed into an envelope and sent away with crossed fingers.

Thoughts are thrown to the wind, to be tossed about by whichever gust takes them.

Bodies are laid at the feet of sickness, injury, addiction, laziness.

The idea of holding onto authority is on my mind for a few reasons. The one I’m going to share with you is to do with sending my book out.

I’ve decided to look for an agent simply because I want to. I think my books are good enough. They’re books I’d love to read. And so I’d like other people to read them.

I’ve said before that I’m not writing to be published, and I hold to that. If a prophet appeared before me and told me I’d never get published, I’d write anyway…with all the freedom that comes with knowing I am, in fact, writing in a bubble and it is one hundred percent for me.

When I think about my story excitement stirs. My mind opens out so it can hold the world, my world. The scale of it is a little daunting, but when calmness settles it’s a perfect fit. It’s somewhere even I can get lost in sometimes.

When I think about my books I’m the sound of a knife-sharpener against a blade, I’m the quiet focus before a fight, I’m the child on a bed of grass who owns the castles in the sky. I’m everything I can be.

So what if I fail?

What if the belief in my books, in myself, gets sealed into an envelope along with the carefully crafted pages carrying my streams of words and is sent away? And what if a sea of rejections comes back?

The thing is, I don’t usually relinquish control. I’m selfish, self-centred, self-absorbed, and entirely under my own authority. My time is my own, I give it when I choose to. I hold my own happiness. I’m in charge of my own success. I let my thoughts blow where they will; luckily they deal with dark places quickly.  As for my body, I’m pretty lucky there too. But maybe it’s not luck, maybe it’s authority. It’s like a circle; when you’re in control of something, you don’t need to enforce it.

I’m going to hold on to this powerful thing called self-belief, and ask again- so what if I fail? I’ve created a world. I’ve created characters who will stay with me for a very long time, possibly forever. I’ve already succeeded.

The Hunt.

Over a year ago, I was halfway through my first novel.

I was writing in a bubble; just me and my story. The larger world ceased to exist. It had no bearing on the words pouring out.

Long before I consciously acknowledged and accepted it, I knew I was writing a series. At the time I thought it would be a trilogy, but that’s really up to Ara. As I sailed past the 20k and 30k word landmarks, and read back over my chapters, I realised that I would love for other people to read the story.

Read it and love it, ideally.

I’ve never seen an empty shelf in a bookshop, unless it was waiting to house the books in the box at its feet.

A world of books was out there; some with fantastic writing, others with such captivating stories that the standard of writing holds little importance. I thought my novel could have a place among the many and varied published works. This was the foundation which lay beneath my first thought of publishing.

How hard could it be?

So I did a little research.

Bafflement struck. Where were all the Irish Publishers?

I thought Ireland was a rather literary place. In fairness, there are around fifty publishers in Ireland. Most publish non-fiction, religious or educational books. Those who take fiction had a list of genres they publish.

Want to know how many listed science fiction and fantasy?

None.

Penguin and Poolbeg press were the only ones I could consider submitting to. Whatever about Penguin, Poolbeg would definitely not want my book.

My merry cyber-adventure continued.

I broadened my horizons. Well, I looked to the UK. I found a whole host of publishers to sink my teeth into.

As I sifted through the throngs, I learned that most publishing houses would not look at my ‘unsolicited manuscript’. I couldn’t send them my work. Undeterred, I proceed to learn that they accept manuscripts from ‘literary agents’ instead.

So I had to get an agent, and then they would get the publishing deal.

I exhaled a sigh of contentment. Negotiating a publishing deal ought to be left to an expert.

I am not an expert.

I decided to broaden my horizons again and invested in the Writer’s Handbook 2011. The proof that I was not entirely mistaken and Ireland did in fact have hordes of publishers was in the pages. Ireland had six pages, the UK had eighty-eight. But I was searching for an agent then, not publishers. The UK had thirty two pages, Ireland had one and a bit.

Oh my.

Anyway, I began looking for a literary agent who would take my genre.

 If I had a bestseller for every time I read ‘no sci-fi or fantasy’…   

As I worked though the thirty-two pages and searched on the internet, I discovered that not all agents were in the handbook.

(It’s called a handbook, but I could knock someone out with it.  And I could not carry it with one hand if my future in publishing depended on it.)

Moreover, the agent who deals exclusively with sci-fi and fantasy was not listed. Others who were open to the genre were not included either.

I reverted to purely searching online and slowly comprised a short list of agents who deal with sci-fi and fantasy.I was sure there were more, but my editing stint was over and I was back to pure writing. Research went hand in hand with *not* editing.

I didn’t resume my search with strong intent until this week.

If you type ‘literary agents taking science-fiction and fantasy’ in google, most results read no science fiction or fantasy.’

My sigh of contentment had long passed. It was replaced by hyperventilation. A friend found a list of all UK agents who deal with my genre.

It’s a list of thirteen.

Some aren’t taking submissions right now, and seem to do so sporadically. My little list created months ago was in fact exhaustive.

The odds of one out of a handful of agents loving my book, believing in its marketability, trusting me as an author, and being in a position to take on a new client are…slim.

I’d say it’s a very good thing I’m not writing to just get published.

The start

I finished my first book at the beginning. It’s the first of a science fiction series. The ending came to me easily. I could feel that it was the end as I wrote it, and it felt wonderful.

How naive I was; I thought I was finished!

I wasn’t.

I’m now doubting it’s possible to finish a book; finish in an ‘I’m entirely satisfied with this’ type of way.

I realise that I’m contradicting my opening line, but it feels true nonetheless. Today I finished. My opening chapter, rewritten countless times, was written for the last time today…I hope. I have that feeling of pure excitement, but I’ve been wrong before.

And now, reading it, it really doesn’t matter whether or not literary agents fall in love with my first line. I love it. It is the opening chapter I wanted to write. I know my main character approves. So why would it matter what someone else thinks?

I guess it comes down to why I write.

I write for my story. I write for the characters living in my mind. I write because, if i didn’t, the words whirling about in my mind would clog it up completely.

While publishing seems like the logical next step to finishing a book, I don’t think it should ever be the sole point.Writing to get published is not writing; it’s an enterprise. I imagine it feels like work, like a chore.

I hate chores.

And it must be stifling. All that worrying about how agents, editors, and readers will respond must really throw a rod into the creative cogs. Or maybe freeze them entirely. Liquid nitrogen poured over that creative process anyone?

Getting back to my point, I write for me.

I will be supremely happy when I have completed my series; when I have told the story that I, who loves reading, would love to read. Once I achieve that I will print out each book, design a cover, and they will exist in my bedroom if nowhere else.

That sounds so sad!

But I would take it over altering the story for the sake of marketability. I would change how some parts are told, of course. I would work with an editor. But change the actual story?Nuh uh.

The story simply is. It doesn’t change.

With that mentality, the search for an agent or publisher becomes a calm affair. Rejections mean that one person didn’t love it. But I do, and that is what will keep me safe.

And while I would be happy with the books existing in my room, I would love for millions of people to read and love them. And for that, I need to enter the alarmingly-slim-chance-of-success world of publishing.

Now that I have finished the beginning, I’m ready to step into that world.

“Better to write for yourself and have no public than to write for the public and have no self.”Writer Cyril Connolly.